Image © New Japan Pro-Wrestling Co., Ltd.

A new episode means a new summary of Ibushi’s NJPW mobile site-exclusive podcast, “Ibushi’s World”, with commentator Murata Haruo. This special episode aired on 1/1 as a New Year’s celebration.

As always, [] are annotations by the translator. The original content is © New Japan Pro Wrestling.

The episode opens with Murata and Ibushi wishing everyone a happy new year and talking about how it’s already been 2 months since Ibushi’s injury during the G1 finals. The Tokyo Dome show is fast approaching, and so they will first talk about Wrestle Kingdom.

After the introduction, Murata reveals that Ibushi drew special calligraphy for this occasion [called kakizome–the first calligraphy of a new year]: specifically, the phrases “wishing a happy new year” and “a new year”. He asks Ibushi how it was doing calligraphy again for the first time in a while, and Ibushi says that he’s forgotten how to hold the brush correctly [brush holding and posture are an important part of Japanese calligraphy]. Murata hasn’t done any calligraphy since middle school, so almost 40 years ago.

He asks Ibushi about what he usually does during his New Year [a special annual period in Japan with a lot of historical traditions and customs, especially from 1/1 to 1/3], and Ibushi says that he’s normally busy [training] extra hard [for Tokyo Dome shows etc]. He doesn’t really take the days around New Year’s off. 

Once the Tokyo Dome shows are over, however, he usually has a sense of relief, and that January feeling has finally arrived. Murata adds that the heavyweights have a bit of time off after the Dome and New Year’s Dash, and Ibushi further explains that he has always done extra hard training around New Year’s ever since he was little.

Murata asks him why he trained as a child, and Ibushi says it wasn’t for fighting, but to harden and train his body. When asked about what kind of workout he did, he says that he did the usual (push-ups, sit-ups, back muscle workout, squats, and so forth), but also harder exercises with dumbbells and headstands and such. Murata asks how old he was when he did this, and Ibushi says he started doing this when he was about 6 years old.

He gets asked if he had any friends or partners during that training, and he answers that he didn’t train with his peers but usually with friends of his older brother (who is 2 years older than him). Murata asks him about kite flying [which is also a traditional activity for children during the New Year holidays], and Ibushi admits that he often used to cut the tethers of other people’s kites.

Next, Murata asks Ibushi about otoshidama [money given as a gift around New Year, especially to children] and what he used to buy with it, and Ibushi says that he wasn’t very interested in money. In fact, he felt guilty whenever he got gifts of money from others, and used to give it to his parents or have them deposit it, and he does that with his mother even now.

Murata asks him if his New Year isn’t lonely since he doesn’t have matches around the holidays this year. Ibushi thinks that he probably hasn’t had this time off from wrestling since he debuted more than 20 years ago, even though he hasn’t done New Year’s Eve shows for a while now. Usually in the past, there were press conferences and then the first matches of the new year and such. This time around, he just does rehab and sees that his shoulder heals properly, not overdoing anything and taking his time.

Still, Murata says that he must do something in his free time since he doesn’t just sit there and heal his shoulder 24/7. Ibushi doesn’t really say what he did in his spare time around New Year’s, but he says that he didn’t feel like there was a true line between 2021 and 2022; they just flowed into each other. Murata understands that feeling well. Ibushi adds at the end that he didn’t do anything special, and that it was a lonely time.

In the following segment, they talk about Ibushi’s predictions for the Tokyo Dome shows [1/4, 1/5 and the crossover with NOAH on 1/8]. They concentrate on the main event of the first night first, which has Okada challenge Takagi for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. Ibushi says that he has watched both of Takagi’s and Okada’s matches until now, and that all three of them debuted in the same year and thus have had about the same career. 

He thinks that Takagi’s vigorous spirit and hyperactive-like fighting might put him at an advantage versus Okada’s calculated, cool-headed approach, but also that he’s scared of the day Okada lets out his inner vigorous spirit and gets fired up like Takagi. He feels that Takagi is closer to him, personality and style-wise. He can’t predict what’s going to happen and thus who’s going to win. In an aside, he likens Takagi’s firing up to getting the star power-up in Super Mario.

Following this, Ibushi gets asked about his predictions for the next night, where the winner of the main event of Night 1 will face Will Ospreay. He finds this match also hard to predict, since it will be wholly different whether it has Takagi or Okada in it. They talk a bit about the fake belt Ospreay has been wearing, and that it’s not the real World Title. Murata thinks that Ospreay carries that fake belt around since he doesn’t want to hand over the belt that was “taken” from him due to his injury. 

This leads to Ibushi mentioning that Okada has also brought out the 4th-generation IWGP Heavyweight belt, and saying that this is a mystery to him too. Though Okada has said it’s his proof of being the G1 winner and wanting a rematch with Ibushi when he comes back, it doesn’t seem to be the whole truth. Murata voices his suspicion that, if Okada wins, he might say what his reasoning was behind carrying the 4th-generation belt. Ibushi jokingly says since he wants to absolutely hear that explanation, his prediction for a winner of the main event of Night 2 is Okada. However, Murata also seems inclined to predict Okada as the winner here.

Murata says that he thinks no one would have anything against Takagi defending successfully on both nights, but in the case that Ospreay wins, he wonders if he will call himself the 2nd or the 4th World Heavyweight Champion. Ibushi adds that if he wins, Ospreay will come after him next, so he has to heal his shoulder properly and be ready. They talk about how this is really a story between 4 people where only one person can come out on top, and how the two main events are especially interesting this year because of the wider implications they have. Murata asks Ibushi if he will be there live to watch the matches, and Ibushi says that he will go if there are no problems and he can, otherwise he will watch on New Japan World.

Lastly, they talk about the Yokohama show. Murata explains that—including dark matches—there are eleven matches on the card, and they involve a lot of wrestlers Ibushi is extremely familiar with. He asks Ibushi about his thoughts on the tag match between Tanahashi and Okada versus Kiyomiya and Muto. Ibushi thinks he’s impressed by the star-studded arrangement of this match. He says that Kiyomiya is the strongest up-and-comer in NOAH right now, but he personally is a bigger fan of Muto, and he had really wanted to face him. Murata also says that if Ibushi [hadn’t been injured] he would have participated in this match most likely.

They talk about how, as the youngest participant in the match, Kiyomiya has to stand out the most, but Ibushi interjects that Muto—who’s as unreadable as Ibushi and yet different—will definitely spoil Kiyomiya’s moment. Both Ibushi and Murata wonder how Kiyomiya is going to be able to escape the maelstrom of the other three wrestlers and make this match his own. Ibushi says that under normal circumstances, it would be impossible for Kaito to do so. He jokes that he pities Kaito, and gives him the advice of putting out unusual behavior if he wants to stay afloat in the match. Everyone should watch out for that happening.

At the end of the episode, Murata reads a question from listeners. The first question asks if Ibushi has ever dyed his hair other than brown or gold-brown, or if he ever wants to dye it a flashier shade. Ibushi answers that he used to think flashier colors didn’t really say “I’m a pro wrestler!” to him, and that instead of being a wrestler’s wrestler, he was a normal person after his debut. Murata counters that Ibushi wasn’t normal at all. Ibushi goes on to explain that these days, it’s the opposite: everyone has more elaborate or flashier hairstyles and colors. In summary, he doesn’t plan on changing his hairstyle into something flashier.

The next question is from the same person who asked about Ibushi’s most painful experience in the second to last episode. This time, they ask about Ibushi’s fashion style and if he’s picky concerning clothes. Ibushi says that he isn’t really picky, and that he just buys what he likes and what he thinks will fit him well. He explains that he’s always liked fashion, and used to do part-time jobs at clothing stores in Ura-Harajuku some 20 years ago [Ura-Harajuku is an area in Shibuya stretching east from the famous Takeshita and Omotesandô streets of “main” Harajuku. It’s known for its underground, stylish and expensive fashion stores]. He was quite obsessed with that fashion and those stores back then, and used to go there every week on his days off to buy clothes.

Before wrapping the episode up, Murata asks him what he likes these days. Ibushi says that it’s up to his intuition. When he’s at a shop or on the internet, and sees an article of clothing he likes and it fits, he’ll buy it. It never matters to him if it’s expensive or cheap, all that matters is if he likes it. As advice for the listener (who says her husband has no sense of style at all), he says that, since most brands are quite same-ish these days, to just go to Uniqlo or into a department store and look at what the mannequins are wearing, since that represents what’s currently trendy. He thinks it’s best to buy an article of clothing that resembles that and start from there.

Special thanks to LPK for editing!